Environment aesthetics and human prefrontal cortex activation patterns during a temporal assessment task: An fNIRS study

Begum Erten, Aykut Eken

This project was presented at 8th Fens Forum of Neuroscience (FENS), held in Barcelona, Spain, June 14-18, 2012. Click here to view the poster.

Human time perception is not only influenced by external factors such as the physical properties of environment but may also be influenced by internal cognitive and affective states. Because positive environments may induce feelings of pleasantness and comfortableness, this may indirectly manipulate human temporal judgments during a behavioral time assessment task. Moreover, detected neural networks involved on time cognition and affective judgments show some similarities on human frontal cortex which is a region devoted for planning and execution of movements. These specialized neural networks on frontal lobe involved in time cognition are dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, dorsal medial frontal cortex which includes anterior cingulate gyrus and the supplementary motor area; for affective judgments are anterior cingulate cortex, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and dorsal medial frontal.

In our study, we used multi-channel near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) device to observe cortical activity of human frontal lobe while subjects were conducting a time production task by observing images depicting two different environments: one with well-furnished design (high quality furnishes, color coherence, presence of piece of artwork such as sculpture or painting) and the other with poor-furnished (poor quality furnishes, a common color incoherence, lack of aesthetic objects) design according to previous subjective assessments.

As a result, we observed activation bilaterally in dorsolateral pre-frontal and dorsomedial frontal cortex which is consistent with previous studies. Moreover, even though we could not find difference on behavioral subjective time assessments, overall activation on detected cortical regions seem to be higher on well-furnished conditions when compared with poor-furnished ones. The reason why the activation is more active under well-furnished condition may be the involvement of affective judgments on stimuli. Yet, in subjective ratings we have found positive co-relation between furnishing quality and induction of pleasantness. View theĀ  posterĀ  for the results.